In Texas, online solicitation of a minor is a very serious offense that can carry steep penalties, including prison time and sex offender registration. In many counties, the most common way an adult is charged with this offense is if they are arrested after a police sting where a police officer poses an underage person in an online chat forum and engages an adult in some form of sexual conversation that leads to a meeting being arranged. When the adult arrives at a meeting spot, he or she is arrested by the police. In the Greater Houston area, these types of stings are very common.
There are two main ways that online solicitation can be alleged:
- Under 33.021(b) an offense is committed where an adult communicates with a minor in a sexually explicit manner or distributes explicit material by electronic means with the intent to commit a specific crime such sexual assault, indecency, promotion of prostitution, or other offenses.
- Under 33.021(c) an offense is committed if an adult knowingly solicits a minor to meet another person (including the adult himself) by electronic means with the intent that the minor will engage in sexual contact of some kind.
An offense under (b) is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to ten years in prison. However, if the State proves that a person charged believed the minor to be younger than 14, then (b) is a second-degree felony, punishable by up two 20 years in prison. Offenses charged under (c) are second-degree felonies, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Persons convicted under (b) or (c) are required to register as a sex offender.
A criminal defense attorney should aggressively challenge the evidence in any online solicitation case. Where a person is charged after a police sting, it is critical that the attorney obtain all of the evidence of the offense, including any ads soliciting conduct, chats, emails, text messages, and recordings. In some instances, it will be difficult to prove that the defendant actually had a sexual intent to meet. In other instances, the person posing as a minor will make contradictory statements or claim that he or she is an adult. This fact can also make it more difficult to prove that the defendant actually had the intent to engage in sexual conduct with a minor.
Whatever the exact factual scenario of your case, it is critical that you immediately speak with an attorney experienced in handling sex crime cases. Attorney Jose Ceja has prosecuted and defended virtually all sex crimes during his legal career and can help you obtain the best possible result. The goals are to avoid jail time, sex offender registration, and a felony conviction wherever possible. If you are charged with online solicitation or any sexual offense anywhere in the Greater Houston area, call Ceja Law Firm for a free consultation.